It’s 2009, you are a indie game dev and a fan of a small game called Infiniminer, a multiplayer game focused around placing and building blocks with other players, the game is going well for a bit until the source code leaks and hacks become rampant.
Yet, the idea itself is solid.
This is the genesis of one of the largest games on the market.
Minecraft started development in 2010 by a single person Markus Persson, back then it was a very simple game about placing blocks and focused around its truely amazing world generation technology and just allowing users to mess around and build stuff.
[Alpha Screenshot, this is where i played the game the most. my account is pretty old.]
At its core the game has stayed essentially that, with just more content being added.
However, the original plan was to have Minecraft be a 3d Dwarf Fortress.
Dwarf Fortress is a deceptively complex game, whilst on the face of it it looks like a MUD or Rouge style game, its below the hood its insanely complex and open ended. it allows users to do basically anything they want and tracks information down to individual fingers on each dwarf.
Whilst this was a grand idea, it ended up being far more than Markus and his small team could handle, so they pivoted towards giving users a base block building experience and expanding upon that.
And now people can make utterly insane things, like working computers entirely within the game engine.
Minecraft has mass appeal, its very popular among children as it provides them with essentially 3d legos without any limits, and that same concept can appeal to people of all ages once you start adding complexity. think like the Lego Mindstorms series that allows you to build mechanical devices with it.
Same idea in Minecraft.
Minecraft is also insanely moddable, allowing the users and community to add anything they want.
Minecrafts performance has been historically a mixed bag, the game is heavily CPU intensive and and when you get more complex worlds can make lesser computers chug heavily, but this is no surprise for games of its type, city builders and again Dwarf Fortress can seriously stress CPU’s once stuff gets complex.
Whilst the game might not be overtly graphical intensive the background stuff requires it to be low poly.
Minecraft is used for mutiple things, in single player allowing users to build and explore however they want with “Survival” and “Creative” modes.
Surivial the user needs to track hunger and health, create items to help them build and kill monsters. mine the earth to get valuable minerals and materials and generally eek out a living within the virtual universe.
Creative on the other hand gives users all the tools and resources they could require and allows them to noclip around, this is what is used to create the gigantic things that people make.
Whilst i’m not really into Minecraft, i can appreciate what it offers and am glad it exists, and it’s a testament to success for indie devs, because in 2014 notch sold the game to Microsoft for 2.5b USD.
Walking away with 1.5b dollars.
Pretty good deal for a indie dev huh.
Great video on the history of Minecraft and what game ideas went into its development.
Some Technical stuff.
Minecraft runs, and always has run on the Java platform, this has been a point of contention especially during the early days where the game was highly unstable and buggy, and a lot of modders not used to working with Java as they had historically used engines like GameByro/Creation [beth games], Unreal [too many games to name] and Source. all very straight forward engines.
But people are used to it now so its not an issue.
Minecrafts Random world gen works of a “Seed” system.
Seeds are often used in games with randomized worlds to “Seed” the RNG system. the seed provides the randomize a starting string for it to work off, it then applies its algorithms and pumps out a world, because of minecrafts insane size [6 times the surface of the earth] the world is generated as the player moves forward, this gets an issue on weaker systems and devices as they need to store more and more info.
The blocky low poly graphics are a conscious decision, much like SL the world the world is made up of simple polygonal structures with textures applied. of cause users can apply new texture packs and particles to up the appearance. but that adds CPU and GPU overhead, and add little to the game-play experience Markus was always of the [correct] thought that Gameplay>Graphics. A game can be as pretty as it wants, but if the core gameplay is bad. the game is bad.
A perfect example from retro gaming is Sonic 1, vs Mario 1.
Mario is a very simple visual game. with tons of reused assets [the clouds and bushes are the exact same sprite]
What the devs of the game understood is that the game needs to play well, and be fun first, players imaginations will fill in the gap.
Sonic on the other hand, is a beautiful game for its time. but the game-play is trash.
Its designed around running fast, yet punishes you for running fast.
Mario is about jumping, and rewards you for jumping.
And as a fun aside, during the beta of minecraft if you placed yourself really really far away from your current world the world generation would keep running and break, producing what the fans called “the far lands”